Dakota State University held an “Executive CyberSecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion” Wednesday in Madison. Somehow they slipped and let Congresswoman Kristi Noem make it a campaign event:
Hey, what’s Larry Rhoden doing at the head table, looking for an alarm button to press? False-Alarm Larry apparently caused DSU some alarm. Our computer school initially posted this welcome to Rhoden and Noem:
Today we welcome the Honorable Kristi Noem and her running mate Larry Rhoden to campus for an Executive Cybersecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion. The event is hosted by Dakota State University and Palo Alto Networks. The Round Table includes industry leaders from local, regional and national organizations. The event is being held in The Beacom Institute of Technology [DSU, Facebook, 2018.08.08].
The DSU team got up the next day and edited that welcome:
EDIT: Yesterday, Dakota State University and Palo Alto Networks hosted an Executive Cybersecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion. Along with industry leaders from local, regional, and national organizations, South Dakota’s congressional delegation was invited to attend, including Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, and Representative Noem. The event was held in The Beacom Institute of Technology on DSU’s campus. This was a campus-wide forum and as are all such forums on campus, was open to the public. Larry Rhoden was not an invited participant, but was in attendance as part of Representative Noem’s team. Mr. Rhoden was not a member of the panel. Media outlets were invited to attend the roundtable and could speak with any of the invited leaders during a scheduled press opportunity. Dakota State, as do all state universities, works collaboratively with all of South Dakota’s elected officials and seeks to have their voices included in campus conversations. Dakota State University does not endorse candidates seeking election [DSU, Facebook, edited 2018.08.09].
Not a member of the panel? He got to sit at the table, closer to the podium than his boss Kristi. He’s looking sure looks like a member of the panel.
And not invited? Then how did he get his own name tag at the table?
DSU doesn’t endorse candidates; it just prints them fancy name tags when they show up uninvited.
Now sure, Larry Rhoden is a sitting State Representative, so inviting and welcoming him could make some sense. But commenters on DSU’s Facebook page indicate that State Senator Billie Sutton, Noem’s opponent in the race for Governor, was not invited.
DSU’s excusing edit also misstates Rhoden’s position. Rhoden is not a member of Representative Noem’s team. He does not work for Noem in her capacity as a federal elected official. He is her running mate in her gubernatorial campaign. If Noem was attending the event in her capacity as a member of Congress, then Rhoden had no place at her side at that table any more than Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Michelle Lavallee would have at the table next to State Senator Billie Sutton… if he had been invited to attend.
The Noem/Rhoden campaign appearance isn’t the first time this year DSU has had to deny any collusion with Republican campaigners. Their inclusion of running-mate Rhoden at a cybersecurity policy discussion with no Democrats of equivalent political rank signals that the school may be trapped in the Janklovian thinking to which it owes its continued existence: pander to the Republican powers that be and pray they keep us alive.
Update 09:06 CDT: The Noem campaign promoted the DSU event with this e-mail Tuesday:
From: Kristi For Governor [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:08 AM
To: Kristi For Governor Press
Subject: ADVISORY: Noem in Madison, Sioux Falls Wednesday
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Noem in Madison, Sioux Falls Wednesday
Sioux Falls, S.D. – Kristi Noem will participate in a cybersecurity roundtable in Madison on Wednesday, August 8, before attending the Ag Appreciation Lunch at the Sioux Empire Fair. If you are press planning to cover either event, please email email@example.com
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8
WHAT: Noem to Participate in Cybersecurity Roundtable
WHEN: Wednesday, August 8 – 9:30AM (CT)
WHERE: Beacom Institute of Technology, Dakota State University
WHAT: Noem to Attend Ag Appreciation Lunch
WHEN: Wednesday, August 8 – 12:00PM (CT)
WHERE: Sioux Empire Fairgrounds (100 Lyon Blvd, Sioux Falls)
Paid for by Kristi for Governor [Noem campaign, press release, 2018.08.07].
Note that his e-mail came from the campaign, not from Noem’s Congressional office. The e-mail as delivered to me included the “Paid for by” campaign finance disclaimer. The Noem/Rhoden team appears to have viewed their appearance at DSU Wednesday as a campaign event, not a Congressional activity.
Update 10:44 CDT: Demonstrating further misstatement by DSU, Madison Daily Leader reporter Mary Gales Askren says on Facebook that the media was excluded from most of this “public” roundtable but could talk to Noem afterward.
Update 11:23 CDT: Palo Alto Networks, DSU’s partner in hosting this roundtable, spent $150K in 2015, $260K in 2016, and $280K in 2017 lobbying Rep. Noem and her colleagues on matters of business interest. From January through June of this year, Palo Alto Networks reports spending $90K on lobbying.